Data protection is human rights issue, says Tlakula

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Advocate Pansy Tlakula, chairperson of the Information Regulator, spoke at GovTech 2019. (Source: SITA Twitter page)
Advocate Pansy Tlakula, chairperson of the Information Regulator, spoke at GovTech 2019. (Source: SITA Twitter page)

All of us have to be advocates for data protection because protection of personal information is a new human rights issue across the globe.  

This is the call made by advocate Pansy Tlakula, chairperson of the Information Regulator, while addressing delegates during one of the track sessions at government technology conference, GovTech.

This week, the State IT Agency is hosting GovTech 2019 at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban, attracting a public, private and SMME sector delegation.  

With everything moving towards being digital, Tlakula pointed out that violations are increasingly going to be on digital platforms. This will not only impact privacy but wreak havoc on democracies, elections, disinformation, etc.

“If we don’t pay attention…as the world we are sitting on a ticking time bomb. I don’t think we are truly aware of this impact except for a few of us who work in this space.”

Tlakula added: “We all have to be activists. We’ve been activists before against apartheid, we are activists against gender-based violence but I think the new activism has to start now. This is the privacy data protection activism.

“We need to make noise about this and bring this to the attention of the powers that be. They cannot talk about the digital revolution but not tell us how they are going to protect our data.

“We all have to be activists to make sure they bring the Protection of Personal Information Act into existence and resource the Information Regulator. Once they have resourced us, we’ll run and do the work.” 

Although former president Jacob Zuma signed the POPI Act in November 2013, the country still doesn’t have a functioning data protection regulatory authority.

The purpose of the POPI Act is to ensure all South African institutions conduct themselves in a responsible manner when collecting, processing, storing and sharing another entity's personal information by holding them accountable should they abuse or compromise personal information in any way.

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